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Build muscle and recover faster with these post-workout snacks

As the old adage goes, abs are truly made in the kitchen, and what you eat after a workout can make a difference, especially if you’re looking to pack on the muscles or lose weight.

Eating after a gruelling session might sound counter-intuitive to building a leaner body but how you refuel can directly impact your recovery, body composition, and future performance. Just as how a pre-workout snack can affect performance, these post-workout options have the ability to improve muscle quality and repair damaged tissue, keeping your body in top form for future training sessions.

Athletes need 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein per day for each pound of muscle mass, so ideal post-workout snacks should offer between 10 to 20 grams. Because rehydrating as soon as possible is important, choosing something with a good ratio of carbohydrates, water content, and protein can be imperative for optimal recovery and results. 

Research points to the benefits of having an after-session munch within 30 minutes to an hour of working out, but eating or drinking right within the first 20 minutes is crucial since that’s when muscle fibres are the most primed for absorbing nutrients.

Besides, you won’t be subjected to all the preservatives that are widely found in protein shakes. Here are the tastiest (and easiest) post-workout snacks to try today. 

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Chocolate milk

We can already hear the skepticism from weight watchers but this favourite school lunch sip is actually one of the best post-workout snacks, thanks to its perfect ratio of carbohydrates and protein content.

Studies have shown that low-fat chocolate milk not only increases skeletal muscle protein synthesis — a sign that muscles can rebuild efficiently — but also leads to a higher concentration of glycogen in muscles, which boosts future performance. Dairy is also a complete protein that has all the amino acids your body needs, while the sodium and sugar content helps keep your mind and body in top form even as you wind down from a session.

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Banana + almond butter

As a good source of natural sugar, bananas are ideal after a high-intensity workout as their high-glycemic carbohydrate content replenishes energy stores quickly. The fruit also offers a good deal of potassium, an electrolyte lost during exercise. 

While perfectly fine on its own, adding almond butter (or any nut butter) can give bananas a quick protein boost. Almond butter provides about 10g of protein per serving for muscle recovery, along with plenty of healthy fats for brain health and sodium for electrolyte balance. It’s an incredibly easy and tasty snack to prepare, but moderation is key here if you’re trying to lose weight.

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Cottage cheese + fruit

As a nutrient-rich food, cottage cheese not only provides energy-boosting carbohydrates and muscle-building protein, but is also amino acid glutamine, which is particularly useful in helping the body recover after a tough workout. It also contains twice as much water as other cheeses, so you’re rehydrating as you snack.

Adding fruit like berries and frozen mangos to cottage cheese can make for a sweet treat with natural sugar. Because it’s packed with casein protein, cottage cheese is also great as a pre-bedtime snack for a sustained release of amino acids throughout the night.

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Canned tuna

This pandemic pantry staple is an excellent a source of lean protein. Tuna is very low in calories and fat while being incredibly high in protein, providing up to 35g of the muscle-building compound per serving. It’s also a good source of B-vitamins and minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium, while the high omega-3 fatty acids content keeps your heart healthy.

If you’re looking to add carbohydrates to the mix, pair your canned tuna with puffed rice cakes or make a sandwich for a quick meal after.

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Beef jerky

Besides having the perfect amount of protein (around 7g per piece), beef jerky also contains a good amount of sodium and potassium to replenish electrolyte stores. The convenient snack is also typically low-fat and has a healthy amount of zinc and iron, and doesn’t raise insulin levels that induce signals for your body to store fat. 

This gas station snack has some major perks but don’t go crazy on it just yet; avoid varieties that are soaked in honey or sauces, and reach for those with low-sugar content instead. If you’re looking for a quick source of energy, have yours with vitamin-rich fruit instead. 

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Hummus + whole-wheat pita

Turns out this iconic duo is more than just a tasty Mediterranean dish. Having a whole-wheat pita with a quarter-cup of hummus replenishes all the post-exercise nutrient necessities your body needs. Besides natural protein and healthy carbs, the chickpeas in the popular dip are also a good source of iron and dietary fibre, which when combined with the slow-release energy from the whole-wheat pita will keep you satiated well after the workout. 

Shatricia Nair
Managing Editor
Shatricia Nair is a motoring, watches, and wellness writer who is perpetually knee-deep in the world of V8s, tourbillons, and the latest fitness trends. She is fuelled by peanut butter and three cups of coffee a day.
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